Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mr. Music

I am continuing our new feature: Ask "Mr. Music." Now in its 23rd year of syndication (1986-2008), Jerry Osborne's weekly Q&A feature will be a regular post every Wednesday from now on. Be sure to stop by Jerry's site ( for more Mr. Music archives, record price guides, anything Elvis, buy & sell collectibles, record appraisals and much more. I thank Jerry for allowing the reprints.


DEAR JERRY: A friend with a pretty good knowledge of music trivia says there is no No. 1 hit title any shorter than “Ben,” by Michael Jackson. This came up after we read last week's column about “The Ladies' Bras” being the shortest hit ever, in terms of length.

I'm stuck for a response, so unless you can come up with one having only one or two letters I will have to humble myself and agree with him.

—Sue Grizwald, Harrisburg, Pa.

DEAR SUE: Mighty safe wording on the part of your friend. By saying none are shorter than “Ben” (1972), he allows for there to be more than just that one three-letter title.

You can tell him there are several others in that category: George Olsen's “Who” (1936); Tommy Dorsey's “You” (1936); Eddy Howard's “Sin” (1951); Johnnie Ray's “Cry” (1951); Frankie Avalon's “Why” (1960); Edwin Starr's “War” (1970); and the Jackson 5 (featuring Michael of course) with “ABC” (1970).

While his information is clearly deficient, he may not wrong. It depends on whether he limited the statement to either the Rock Era, or in another way which eliminates a No. 1 hit in 1951.

If not, then you'll be thrilled to know “If,” by Perry Como, reached No. 1 that year.

For the entire 20th century there are none with just one letter, and no others with two letters.

DEAR JERRY: Since so many of your readers have cast their votes for the 2008 Hit Parade Hall of Fame inductees, they will be interested to know the names of our 33 newest members.

Alphabetically, we welcome: Bee Gees; Chuck Berry; Bread, Freddy Cannon, Carpenters, Chicago, Lou Christie, John Denver, Dion, Doris Day; Eagles; Everly Brothers; Roy Hamilton; Tommy James and the Shondells; Elton John; Tom Jones; Kingston Trio; Jerry Lee Lewis; Frankie Laine; Dean Martin; Guy Mitchell; Monkees; Olivia Newton-John; Johnnie Ray; Johnny Rivers; Kenny Rogers; Linda Ronstadt; Sonny & Cher; Kay Starr; B.J. Thomas; Johnny Tillotson; Jackie Wilson; and Stevie Wonder.

For nomination, an artist must have at least two Top 10 hits, of any genre, during a 30-year period beginning in 1950.

It is the vote of fans, as well as other factors (career longevity, record sales, concert achievement, etc.) that are then voted on by our nominating committee at the end of each year.

Inductees and nominees for the new year are announced shortly thereafter. The nominees for 2009 have yet to be finalized, though they should be known soon. Then the voting begins.

An artist has three years to gain induction before their candidacy is discontinued as a current nominee.
—John Rook, Hit Parade Hall of Fame

IZ ZAT SO? “Ben” may be among the shortest song titles, but not so in cinema history.

Surprisingly, all but three of the 26 possible letters are already movie titles. Many letters even have more than one film of that title.

Here is an example of each single-letter film, along with the release year for my selection (often the first one made):

“A” (1965); “B” (1998); “D” (2005); “E” (1981); “F” (2000); “G” (1983); “H” (1990); “I” (2004); “J” (2000); “K” (1997); “L” (1961); “M” (1951); “N” (2005); “O” (2001); “P” (1964); “Q” (1974); “S” (1998); “U” (2003); “V” (1984); “W” (1983); “X” (1963); “Y” (1992); and “Z” (1969).

Only “C”, “R”, and “T” remain, though it is no doubt just a matter of time before they too become titles.

Classic Rock Videos

Beatles - Rain

Album Cover Art

Molly Hatchet - Beatin' The Odds 1980

Molly Hatchet's third album featured new singer Jimmy Farrar, who is a competent southern rock singer, but his voice changed the Hatchet sound quite a bit. Farrar's voice just didn't have the depth and the conviction that Danny Joe Brown's voice had. "Beatin' the Odds" was still a heavy southern rock and roll experience and contains such classics as the title track, "Penthouse Pauper" and "Double Talker" a low down and dirty heavy rocker. Once again the cover was painted by Frank Frazetta.

Music News & Notes

Barenaked Singer To Go Solo

Singer-guitarist Steven Page has left the quirky Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies.

This news comes several months after drug charges against Page were dropped in the U.S. His arrest came after the band, known for its clean-cut image and whimsical lyrics, released an album of children's songs titled, "Snacktime."

The band's Web site said Wednesday that Page will pursue solo projects, including theatrical opportunities.

Page, his girlfriend and her roommate were charged with drug possession in July after police found cocaine at an apartment in New York state. In late October, all three secured a deal to have charges dropped if they stayed out of trouble for six months.

Page wished the band the best.

"These guys are my brothers," he said in the online statement. "We've grown up together over the past 20 years. I love them and wish them all the best in the future."

The band was formed in Toronto and released 12 albums, producing hits such as "If I Had $1,000,000," "Brian Wilson" and "Too Little, Too Late."

The band will continue on without Page, entering the studio in April 2009 to record a new album.


Faith No More Reunites, European Dates Planned

Faith No More has announced its first live performances since the band split up in 1998. The band is scheduled to play a series of European festival dates this summer, according to a statement from frontman Mike Patton's publicist.

No North American Faith No More dates are scheduled at this time. Patton and frequent collaborator Rahzel will perform at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in April, despite speculation about a Faith No More appearance.

Faith No More's biggest single, "Epic," reached #9 on the Hot 100 in 1990. "Midlife Crisis" earned the band the top spot on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1992.


Pumpkins, Hanson, Cheap Trick, Fountains Of Wayne Supergroup Talks Release

Newly-formed power pop supergroup "Tinted Windows" have set an April 21 release date for their debut self-titled album (onS-Curve). The band members are: singer Taylor Hanson of Hanson, guitarist James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, bassist Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne and drummer Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick.

"Even though it seems really sudden to everybody else, we've been working on making this happen for a while," Schlesinger told "Taylor and I have been friends forever and started talking about it seriously about it three years ago. Two years ago, James was in on it."

The three were already writing material as they pondered who to add as a drummer.

"We kept trying to brainstorm who could play like Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick," Schlesinger continues. "But then it just seemed obvious we should at least try Bun E. Carlos."

They sent the veteran drummer some demo tracks and, to their surprise, "he was into it. Fountains of Wayne had opened for Cheap Trick a couple of times, but this was the first time any of us had really worked with him."

The biggest struggle for the band was trying to make time where everybody could be together in the same room to record. Hanson lives in Tulsa, Schlesinger and Iha in New York and Carlos outside of Chicago. Between touring, recording and writing with all their other groups, Tinted Windows were able to secure out a month total of recording time early last year at Stratosphere Sound Studios in New York, which Iha and Schlesinger co-own with Ivy's Andy Chase.

The result is an album combination of mostly '70s rock and power-pop, with Hanson's vocals leading the way on cuts like "Kind of a Girl" and "Messing with My Head." Schlesinger wrote the bulk of the 11-track "Tinted Windows," while he and Iha produced the majority of it.


CODE: 'Resplendent Grotesque' Cover Artwork Unveiled

The cover artwork for "Resplendent Grotesque", the second album from CODE — the British/Norwegian black metal project featuring bassist/backing vocalist Viper (a.k.a. Vicotnik from DHG), guitarist/songwriter Aort, drummer Adrian Erlandsson (AT THE GATES, CRADLE OF FILTH) and vocalist Kvohst (DØDHEIMSGARD) — can be viewed below.

Commented the band: "[The artwork was] created, painted and lovingly slaved over by the enigmatic, brilliant and cult artist Stephen Kasner. We are eternally grateful and blessed for his vivid and inspired portrayal of our music. As the man himself remarked, 'I feel very successful in channeling the emotions and ideas, in my own way, as they were described to me. And of course, your music was more than enough to evoke the demons. They have made themselves clearly known in these works, I am certain.'

"We hope you admire it as much as we do."

"Resplendent Grotesque" will be released in Norway on April 6 via Tabu Recordings. The rest of Europe will receive the CD on May 4. A U.S. release date has not yet been announced.

According to the band, the follow-up to 2005's "Nouveau Gloaming" will contain "songs of necrospiritual dust and desertion, crafted by bony hands in blackbird gloves." Aort previously stated about the CD, "Adrian completely devastated the drums for this recording and Vicotnik has manageed to really outdo himself with his most inspired bass work yet. I think we have all raised the bar with this recording and we are itching to get these morbid hymns out to you."

Brick-and-Mortar Record Stores Are Trying to Get Their Groove Back

by Timothy Finn
McClatchy Newspapers

Tuesday used to be sacramental in the world of music. It was new-release day, the day faithful music fans stopped by their favorite record store to buy something they’d been waiting for weeks to hear or to discover something they hadn’t heard.

Back then, record stores were the best places to hear new music and mingle with other music fans.

“Record stores used to be neighborhood hangouts,” said Corky Carrel, who co-owns an online record store based near Kansas City. “They were like bars without liquor. You’d go in and browse and talk about music.”

Tuesdays aren’t the only days that aren’t what they used to be—for record stores or their customers.

Like so many industries caught between two seismic sea changes—- the Internet revolution and the great recession—- stores that sell new music are in a fight for their lives. The chains are dying, independent stores are closing, and the record labels that feed them merchandise are running out of ways to make money.

The stores that are surviving are performing balancing acts. Most rely heavily on the pre-owned—“used”—business: Buy it cheap, sell it cheap. Some have turned to niche marketing, selling new CDs to one or two refined segments of the music world. Others rely on a combination of the two: Sell CDs and vinyl, new and used, to a defined demographic. And others have been helped by the recent revival of what was once considered a relic, the vinyl record.

Steve Wilson remembers the good days, back when record stores offered surprises and mysteries and employed people who had strong opinions about most of them.

“When I started buying albums in earnest, I went to Kief’s on the Mall (in Lawrence, Kansas),” he said. “I remember talking to the guys who worked there. They were there to educate you—as long as you were there to listen, not talk.”

He and Carrel became career guys in the record-store industry. Wilson has been with Kief’s since December 1973. That was about the time Carrel started working at a local electronics store that sold recorded music. From there he went to Caper’s Corner, a fabled record store in Kansas City. In 1987 he opened his own store, Corky’s Records.

Both men are still in the business. Carrel and his partner, Bill Lavery, run Wilson works at Kief’s Downtown, one of two record stores in Lawrence and the satellite outlet to Kief’s, the electronics/music retailer south of downtown.

Some store owners are optimistic about what lies ahead, but none is willing to say for certain where they or their store will be in five or 10 years.

“The game has changed,” Wilson said. “Now it’s all about survival.”

The music business is in a free fall. Sales of new albums have dropped more than 45 percent the last eight years. In 2000 consumers in the United States bought 785 million albums. In 2008 they bought 428 million.

In 2000 the 10 best-selling albums sold 60 million units. In 2008 that figure was 18.8 million.

The decline in sales coincided with the explosion of home computers, the Internet and the sharing of music files via Web sites such as Napster.

But long before online retailers, digital music and file-sharing entities started eroding sales at brick-and-mortar stores, the small retailers were fighting other forces.

Carrel said the decline began in earnest when a store like Caper’s had to compete with large chains like Peaches in the late 1970s.

“Slowly the acts indigenous to our store—like early Rod Stewart and Elton John—our sales on them plummeted because their albums were everywhere,” he said.

An even bigger hit came when chains like Best Buy started selling CDs as “loss leaders”—items priced under cost to get customers into the store and shopping for other, more expensive items. Those chains also were getting marketing funds from record labels, which helped them reduce the sticker price of their CDs.

Lavery remembers his employees at Village Records coming in and “bragging about the deals they got at Best Buy, which were better than at our store, even with an employee discount.”

Through the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, or CIMS, of which Kief’s is now the only local member, smaller retailers eventually convinced labels that they, too, were important to their artists’ livelihood, and stores like Kief’s eventually enjoyed some of the same marketing benefits that the chain stores were getting.

On a recent Monday, Kief’s received a delivery of the new Bruce Springsteen album, Working on a Dream. The package included an incentive, or what Wilson called a “value-added perk”: a glossy four-color book of lyrics to each song on the album.

“It means the hard-core fan will probably buy the record in three different places so he can get all three (perks),” Wilson said.

Despite the labels’ concessions to the independent stores, the chains hurt many small retailers. Carrel said the consequences were profound: “It really took a chunk out of the independent stores,” he said. “It forced a lot of people into the used business.”

For years stores have survived on the sale of used CDs. Many still do. At Needmore Discs in Shawnee, Kansas, co-owner Eric Voeks said “about 80 percent of what we sell is used. Used DVDs do well, too.”

At Streetside Records in Kansas City, which is part of the FYE chain, manager Jennine Goodman said used CDs have kept them going.

“One of the reasons the company we’re with is still doing well is, it caught on early that it was smart to buy and sell used,” she said. “We still buy a lot of used, and we sell a lot of used.”

But even the market for used CDs has softened, said Kelly Corcoran, who owns Love Garden record store in Lawrence.

“For a long time we made OK money on new CDs, great money on used,” he said. “They were the cash cow of Love Garden, until about five years ago. That’s when so many corporate chain shops started opening used-CD shops, like Hastings and Half-Price Books.

“A lot of those chains would buy everything that came through the door. A ton of used CDs got fed into the system, and it got out of control,” he said. “Places bought stuff without thinking it through. And we suddenly had a tougher time getting good stuff into our store.”

Concurrently more people owned computers with CD burners on them, Corcoran said, which meant “maybe you wouldn’t have to buy a used CD.”

“You could get a copy from a friend. Or if a CD didn’t mean that much to you, you could rip the songs you want onto your computer and loan the CD to friends so they wouldn’t have to buy one.”

And then the file-sharing monster arrived on the scene, and recorded music, to some people, became nothing more than abstract digital files to be shared for free.

The accumulation of all those factors has slowly affected the bottom lines at many record stores.

Voeks, who once worked for the CD Warehouse chain, opened his store in 2003.

“We started off real strong,” he said, “but over the last few years, there has been a slow decline. I’m not sure it’s entirely an economic issue. It’s also a generational thing.”

Corcoran said that because Love Garden is careful and savvy about what it buys, new CDs still do well at his store. But he has noticed a trend that other stores are noticing: New vinyl is doing well again.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of vinyl records nearly doubled nationwide in 2008, from just less than 1 million in 2007 to almost 1.9 million. More vinyl records were sold last year than in any year since SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991.

That 1.9 million represents less than half of 1 percent of all the albums sold in 2008, but these days any upward trend in sales is going to be noticed and explored by both labels and record stores.

At Streetside, Goodman and Chris Labeau, who buys the store’s new vinyl, started noticing a rise in demand about a year ago. Since then the store has slowly increased its new vinyl inventory.

“It’s kind of shocking how fast it picked up,” Labeau said. “Once they started offering vinyl with the free MP3 download, we really started selling more.”

He’s talking about the have-your-cake-and-eat-it premium that many bands are offering with a copy of a new vinyl record: a coupon or code that gives the customer on line access to a digital copy of the album. That lets them have the vinyl and upload the music to their MP3 players.

Goodman said demand for vinyl was strong over the holidays.

“About half the customers who came in with a Christmas list had vinyl on it,” she said.

Consequently, over the past few months vinyl sales have jumped from less than 1 percent of total sales at her store to 7 percent.

“Vinyl has surpassed several other entire genres in the store,” she said.

And customers are willing to wait weeks for an LP, if that’s what it takes. Labeau said his store didn’t get its initial shipment of the Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion because demand nationwide exceeded supply. That album was released in January, first in vinyl with the free MP3 bonus. A week later, it was released on CD.

“We had about 15 customers put a vinyl record on hold and wait for it, even though we had it on CD, too,” Labeau said. “They weren’t interested in the CD.”

Not everyone is sold on the idea that vinyl is the B-12 shot that will revive record stores and labels. Wilson said Kief’s is being cautious about buying new. Used, however, is another story.

“We do fine with the new vinyl, but honestly, it’s a risk,” he said. “With used (vinyl), we buy smart. We can make good money on it. With new, if you buy it, you have to sell it because most manufacturers won’t take it back like they do CDs.

“So to some degree, we’ve conceded new vinyl to Love Garden. We’re still not sure how big the market is, and we’re not willing to be that speculative.”

Corcoran said new vinyl has been a featured attraction at Love Garden for years.

“People know that if it’s available, we’ll have it,” he said.

New vinyl started doing so well at his store that it was one factor that prompted Corcoran to change the way his store orders music.

“We used to stay away from the major-label, corporate world of alternative music,” he said. “We wouldn’t carry the new Kings of Leon, for example. Or Radiohead. ... But hesitantly we got into the major-label business.”

He and his staff noticed that customers who came in looking for new music from big-label acts also shopped for other music, and some became loyal customers. So the store made a concession, especially when it came to new vinyl.

“There’s a chunk of our customers who only come in here to buy the new cool, major-label records on vinyl, like Kanye West,” he said. “They just want it, and they’ll pay $25 for it, no questions asked.

“So though we may not carry the new Bruce Springsteen on CD, we will carry it on vinyl. And people will come in asking for it. And we’ll sell it.”

Who is buying all this vinyl? Goodman said it’s a combination of high school and college students and older customers who have either “pulled out their turntables or never put them away.”

Some are like Nick Dormer, 24, a faithful vinyl buyer at Love Garden.

“Most of the time vinyl is priced within a buck or two of a (new) CD, and you get larger artwork, a better shelf life and, commonly, a digital download,” he said. “I buy vinyl records when I want to listen to an album in its entirety.”

Labeau said a few of his customers are collectors who want the vinyl record as an artifact, like a concert T-shirt or a poster.

“They make (picture) frames for album covers,” he said, “so you can hang them on the wall.”

Dormer said he doesn’t “collect” per se, but he does respect the limited-edition LPs he buys.

“About six or seven months ago I purchased a limited-edition Murder City Devils record on yellow vinyl for $40,” he said. “I listened through about four times before framing it to hang on my wall.”

Despite his store’s success with new vinyl, Corcoran is skeptical about its current status and dubious about its long-term future. However, he is not worried that the big chains, like Best Buy, have started selling new vinyl.

“The transition to vinyl is not a real transition,” he said. “It’s also an act of desperation by the labels, not an altruistic interest in the format.

“I love the format. We do records, new and used. New records are there because customers want them, but we don’t make a lot of money on them. Used CDs and used vinyl pay the bills. If you’re going to sell new vinyl, you have to be smart. You have to have a sophisticated system set up. You really have to know what you’re doing and know your customers. I know the chains are carrying LPs, but they don’t know what they’re doing.”

What’s next?

The future for some record stores may be in someone’s basement.

In 1994 Lavery and Carrel combined their stores into one at Village Records in Shawnee. After a few years they noticed a clientele emerging that appreciated the same music they did, what is widely known as “roots music” or “Americana”. They also noticed that they were doing a decent word-of-mouth mail-order business with out-of-town customers, people willing to look a little harder and spend a little extra to get music from songwriters like Tom Russell, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams or Dave Alvin. It was music those customers could no longer get at their local record stores.

“That was before the Internet or e-mail were big,” Lavery said. “We were taking orders over the phone, sometimes writing them down on loose scraps of paper, and hand-labeling everything. At first the mail-order part was supplementing the store. But that flipped after two or three years.”

Carrel had been working exclusively with Russell since his days at Corky’s Records. He got permission to use Russell’s mailing list and sent a Village Records mailer to each name on that list. The response was quick and encouraging.

“We never looked back after that,” Carrel said.

In 1999 he and Lavery closed the brick-and-mortar store, moved their operations into their homes, and watched their business grow via the Internet. They estimate their customer base is 400 customers, many of them regulars who spend decent money each month. For them, all is good, even now.

“Since the economy tanked, our sales have actually gone up,” Carrel said. “Ninety percent of what we sell costs less than $15. And what are you going to do—not get the new Dylan CD or buy it and not spend that money on a meal or at Starbucks?”

What of the brick-and-mortar stores? Corcoran thinks the future will come down to survival of the savviest.

“You have to be smart,” he said. “Ten years ago anyone could make money running a record store. And they did. Now stores who don’t have sophisticated systems set up are either closing or selling toys and bongs to make ends meet.”

He also thinks the labels will continue to produce hard products but will have to make some concessions to save themselves.

“I don’t think they’ll stop putting out records or CDs,” he said. “But I think they’ll lower prices of CDs, and we’ve already seen movement that way. If they sold them to me for $6.50 or $7, I could sell CDs like candy for $10. If it’s a double-CD, OK, then $15 or $16 is reasonable. But unless the artwork mows your lawn, a single CD needs to be $10.”

Anne Winter saw some of this coming three years ago.

For 18 years she sold vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, posters, magazines, T-shirts and other music merchandise at Recycled Sounds on Main Street, just east of Westport. In April 2006 the store closed.

“The last few years we saw that the hard-core collectors were still very much into the vinyl,” she said. “What was going away were the younger customers who no longer came out to record stores to interact with our staff and other customers to learn about music.”

Voeks notices the same thing. He has been in the retail music business for more than 25 years. While living in Australia in the 1980s, he spent his weekends off from his 40-hour-a-week bureaucratic job working at a hardware store that had a music section. He got paid in albums. Voeks moved to St. Louis in 1989 and went to work at its Streetside stores. In 1997 he moved to Kansas City and worked for the CD Warehouse chain.

He remembers the days when stores were like salons or live chat rooms, and customers came in “to hang crap on each other’s tastes and talk about music.”

“But you had to do it real-time, instantly. You couldn’t stop and look something up on Google. You had to know then.”

At Kief’s, Wilson said he shares his vast knowledge of music with customers less these days. He spends it on other duties instead.

“When you’re buying used vinyl, you need to know what to buy and what you can charge,” he said. “So you get paid for knowing something. But your expertise can be pretty worthless on some days, unless someone comes in and wants to talk about music. And those people are not coming in like they used to.”

Wilson laments what is happening on a broader level to the pop culture: the death of mystique, the end of the underground. These days, he said, everything is everywhere for its 15 minutes of limelight, whether it’s a song, an album, a band or a video on YouTube.

“Then people move on to the next thing,” he said. “It’s hard for things to grow deep roots.

“If I tell kids how in the ‘70s I got the two-disc CBGBs compilation by getting Hilly Kristal’s phone number and calling him, they’d look at me like, ‘What? Did Wells Fargo bring it to you?’”

The Web has played an enormous role in taking some of the mystique out of music. Songs and albums are sometimes leaked or streamed long before they are released in stores. Nine days before the album’s official release, was streaming nonstop the entire Working on a Dream album.

“People know two weeks before it comes out whether they like a record or not,” Corcoran said, “because they’ve heard it several times.”

The Tuesday that Springsteen’s album went on sale, business was light during lunch hour at Streetside Records. One customer—a male in his 40s—came in and bought two copies of Working on a Dream on CD. A woman in her 20s flipped deliberately through the store’s new-vinyl collection without selecting anything. The employees chatted casually behind the counter. And for the most part, this Tuesday felt like any other day in the retail-music world.

SOURCE: Pop Matters

Vinyl Poetry

I found this wonderful insight and explanation on a blog. I have seen many discussions and opinions as to why vinyl sounds the best, but these words are like poetry to me. Enjoy:

What's the deal with records?

I am no technophile- recently, my father visited us, and somewhere in between reminiscing, drinking, and ice racing, he taught me how to connect the wires on my record player. I've had the thing for the last decade [I got it second-hand], and used to play records all the time, but for some reason, I forgot how to connect the wires to the speakers. It's one of those old record players where connecting the wires the right way is akin to jump-starting a car battery or unwiring a bomb. Anyway, now I can listen to all my old records again.

I'm also not an audiophile, so I can't really explain or even understand why my records sound better to me than their CD counterparts. I've tried to update and buy copies of them on compact disk; but for some reason, rock'n'roll bands sound 100 percent more raw, powerful, and human on vinyl. People who are into record collecting can be fairly annoying about this, claiming that the switch to digital music ''robbed the soul of rock'' and so forth. However, I spent quite a bit of time recently listening to a song I like- I've Got Levitation by the 13th Floor Elevators; both on the 180 gram vinyl repress of the original 'Easter Everyday' record, and then on CD. There was no comparison; the digital version sounds weak and flat; the vinyl version sounds warm and powerful, like the band is playing all around you. I don't think it's just the speakers.

I've tried to figure out why music sounds better to me on vinyl, and I have two theories. The first is that the analog sound wave is more complete than digital layers- or basically steps- can replicate. Sound waves are better suited to the human ear, even if the digital version is infinitely layered. Compare a drawing of a curve to a pixelated drawing of a curve- I think this is what happens to a sound wave when it's digitized.

The second theory I have is that, when music is remastered, the computer removes a lot of the 'noise' that is actually produced by people playing music. Not just dust and scratches, but the ambient sounds of human beings playing the instruments. One way of describing CD versions of albums is to say that they seem 'flat' by comparison. It's as if you're listening to a computer imitating the original recording, which really isn't that far from the truth.

Now compact disks have their advantages too, especially the fact that they take up less space. And there are certainly some albums that sound better in the ''digitally mastered'' version, cleaner and easier to hear the individual musicians. But it was kind of obnoxious how we were all expected to throw out our records and get with the times when the industry started pushing CDs. People whose tastes are basically undefined tend to believe that whatever is newer is better. This is the mantra of consumer capitalism. But, in the case of CDs, we're not talking about the difference between a horse and an automobile; prefering the sound of vinyl doesn't make you a ''luddite'' or ''old-fashioned''. And people who believe that it does need to put less stock in music industry hype.

Besides, it's a good time to be a record collector. As the music industry sinks under the weight of its own greed and stupidity, the only sector to see increased sales is vinyl; people are buying more records than they have in recent years, and less of everything else. The explanation has been that people get all of their music on MP3s now, and want to have tangible things to go with the music. This sounds like industry-think to me. MP3s are fine, aside from sounding lousy because of the high compression. But, music played on a good stereo from vinyl records is about as good as it gets.


Design Your Own Album Cover

An interesting way to spend some time, design your own album cover!

A terrific little design exercise for your enjoyment

Yeah, yeah; Just what we need. Another Facebook meme. We said the same thing when we saw it Sunday afternoon.

But this one is really, really cool. We promise.

You have to design an album cover. But you don’t get to pick the name of your band or the name of the album. You don’t even get to select your cover art. All that is randomly selected for you!

You’re totally on your own. You rock — or you suck — based totally on your ingenuity. That, plus a little luck.

Here are the rules:

GO TO: Design Album Cover